Ask Joe Pszonek who he admires in the radio biz and he’ll tell you Ron Olesko, Wanda Adams Fischer, Vin Scelsa, John McLauglin, Pete Fornatale, the list goes on. Pszonek states, “It humbles me to think that I could even be a part of the same world. They are voices who have inspired me. “ WMSC 90.3 FM located in Montclair NJ (MSU Underground Radio) “is a student run 10 watt college station that also broadcasts on the web with an incredibly diverse range of music and programming other stations won’t touch.” WMSC airs “Radio Nowhere” hosted by “Joltin Joe” Pszonek every Sunday night from 7-10pm.
“Joltin’ Joe” is an inspiration to many, both personally and professionally. Personally he gives his time whenever and wherever needed, volunteering for nearby venues, emceeing CoyoteRidge Music Series, and he’s always there when you need a shoulder or an ear. Professionally when you tune in Sunday nights you’ll hear “This is Radio Nowhere…is there anybody alive out there.” which are lyrics from Bruce Springsteen‘s first release “Radio Nowhere” off the 2007 album “Magic“. Pszonek’s show is eclectic, mixing sets of blues, americana, folk, roots, and even rock. The show is streamed hence the line “is there anybody alive out there” a perfect fit for the show. His listeners, are local Montclair and surrounding area NJ/NY fans, and because of the streaming he’s had listeners and calls come in from Canada and around the world. You often hear “Joltin Joe” say “We’re live from Nowheresville”, but the show always takes you “somewhere” with his animated, passionate patter with guests, and playlists that quench your musical thirst. Guests have included emerging and touring artists such as James Maddock, Toby Walker, Dave Kleiner and Liz Pagan, Lon Milo DuQuette, and his first guest Loretta Hagen. He’s often assisted by his son Chris (22) and his daughter Jordan (20), and the voice behind the PSA (Public Service Announcement) is his wife Sue aka “Slimey Sue“.
I asked Joe how he you got his start in radio? ” I always just absolutley loved music, music was just everything. I was the guy who ran to the store to buy the brand new record and always explored different kinds of things. I would be the guy who had the first Springsteen album and a friend would borrow it and never give it back! So when I went to college at Montclair State University, they had a radio station, and I thought, wow, I wonder if I could do this. So I gave it a shot. I don’t have a typical radio voice, it’s very regional, Jersey Cityish, but recognizable. At the time (the 70′s) I was fortunate to interview David Bromberg, Clarence Clemmons, Southside Johnny and Brad Delp lead singer of Boston, Dean Freedman who did a song called Airielle about being in the mall in NJ. I spent more time at the radio station then at classes, so I had to get a job, and started working at Sam Goody records, a big chain in the NY/NJ area. I met people who worked with the record companies, and I got to know some of them. One guy worked for Capitol Records, and they gave me a job as a merchandiser, a paper hanger, inventories, making displays at records stores in Long Island. Then I went into sales all with Capitol, Emi, Virgin Records system, the distribution arm and I did that for 19.5 years til 2000. The president of Capitol distribution company CEMA went to Disney in 2000 so I went over and was there for 7 years, until they began downsizing for the new electronic age. Record Stores were going out and things were changing. I thought there wasn’t anything more for me in the business and tried other things for about 3 years until we bought Mad Science. Nothing clicked, I was a retail guy and you would think sales is sales, but it’s not. The music business is sexy, exciting!
Joe and Sue went to a Gandalf Murphy concert at Music At The Mission, and the venue asked for volunteers. Joe lives and breathes music, he’s a sponge for everything out there, so he and his wife decided to get involved. Then about a year ago, with social media being what it is today, people started popping out the woodwork on FB, people from college and the radio station in Montclair. “They told me they do a show called “The Alumni Takeover” an entire week in May, which Alumni from Montclair State take over the airwaves. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I jumped in, even though I hadn’t done radio in 30 years, and had Loretta Hagen for my first show, which was alot of fun.” In the summer they don’t have alot of students, so WMSC Radio Station Manager Dick Hinchliffe offered him a show. Joe jumped at the chance, and his daughter joined him on the show for awhile. Joe changed the show up, came up with a new program, eclectic with a little bit of everything, edgier, and different from nearby stations. He recently added “Coolest Song in Nowheresville” which means finding a song that moves Joe in some way. “In the future WMSC has great new facilities coming and it will make interviews whether live or by phone much easier, so we could do more phoners too. NY/NJ Public radio is going to have space on the campus which is amazing for the students and their future. It will make interviews live or by phone much easier which is great for my show, but more importantly kids will have the chance to get into a communications program on campus and have dedicated facilities available to them.” Joes’s passion is education and entertainment, and he loves his work at WMSC. “I keep my show alive with the help of listeners and artists, who’ve both helped us to spread the word about our show, and WMSC. We aren’t commercial radio, we stream so we know people are listening. 90% of my show is independent artists. Although, I do make requests to the larger labels, and will play Bruce Springsteen and the big artists out there too.”
Pszonek reports to the FOLK DJ-L radio chart, and to the Roots Music Chart (RMR), both key to independent musicians and major labels for climbing radio charts. He tirelessly posts his playlists on time, correctly formatted, so that they count for the artist. He considers that to be important to the artists and their craft. He also loves to see who other hosts are playing, and hopes other DJ’s are checking his for new talent. Pszonek wants artists on his show who are local interest and or community minded. He’s had artists get off a plane from Germany (Todd Wolfe) then drive from PA to do his show, or James Maddock driving in a few hours from the shore to be on his show. Community wise he promotes the artists music and the venues who are having them.
It was fun speaking with Sue, Joe’s wife aka “Slimey Sue”. Sue is very funny, a quick wit. How did you two meet?
“In 2000 I was going to graduate school at night at Montclair, my first time back to school in almost 16 years. I was really nervous, and thought I would be the oldest one in the class, cause it’s all kids. I sat next to Joe or maybe it was I sat at the front of the class alone, in any case Joe and I got to talking. The next week we were both looking for each other in the halls. It was all downhill from there! Feels more like 30 years sometimes.” Joe chimes in “or Forever.” Sue laughs. Joe and Sue have been married 10 years in March, and known each other 12 1/2 years. Our interview also included the voices of Joe and Sue’s 3 adorable Yorkies!
A few years ago it was job hunting for Joe and this year it’s been health issues for both of them. Sue has recently had 2 surgeries, one on her back and Joe had emergency gall bladder surgery. It’s taken some time for both to recover, and Sue does aid Joe from time to time. The first time she was on the air with Joe he said “Well Slimey Sue who did we just hear.” and she said “ahhhhh I don’t know!” Sue has told him to give her a script, she’ll do the Public Service Announcements. I asked “Do you like doing the show?” Sue paused and said “I’m an observer, this is Joe’s thing, I’m just here to help him. Same with our business Mad Science, I’ll make the slime, but don’t ask me to do a party for 25 kids and do the public speaking, it’s not my thing, it’s his.” By the way slime is made up of poly vinyl alcohol, sodium borate, and paint. The chemicals react and mix with air and becomes, thick like jello or like slime. EWWW
Joe’s day job is “Mad Science” which he owns in Sparta NJ. He purchased a franchise, Mad Science is based out of Montreal, it’s international. He’s also won 5 awards, 2 this year for “Outstanding Performance in Special Events and Pre-K Workshops.” “I’m not getting rich, but I like what I do there, parties and education and I get to perform a little bit that way too! That’s how I got the name “Joltin Joe the Mad Scientist”.. at Montclair in the mid 70′s I was “Crazy Joe”, and then at Capitol I was “Parkway Joe, so I’ve always had nicknames, better than saying my last name.”
Do you have a favorite artist that has been on Radio Nowhere or you’d like to interview? “I have so many James Maddock, Loretta Hagen, …who to get on my show?, Tracy Grammar.” “What about Springsteen?” I interrupt, and Joe sighs “Oh man, the impossible dream Bruce Springsteen, but yes oh yeah!, Also love to have the lovely Sarah McQuaid, Southside Johnny, Pesky J. Nixon. I want passionate musicians, their stories are just fantastic.”
Years ago in the 70′s at WMSC, I did interview David Bromberg, Clarence Clemmons, Southside Johnny and Brad Delp lead singer of Boston, and locals like Dean Friedman who did a song called “Ariel” about being in the mall in NJ.”
“I love what all of the creative artists do out there. I may not always connect or relate to everyone of them, but I admire what they do. We’re all doing a grass roots effort in life today, we’re all seeking creative ways to live and it’s important to me to give back by giving my listeners great music.”
Sue tells me “When he first started his radio show, I didn’t understand. But his passion is music, and I get it, he enjoys it, and I like to join him either at the studio or listening at home. Music makes Joe happy, and keeps him going.”
Ask Joe Pszonek, what he loves and he’ll tell you his wife Sue, their kids, their Yorkies, his business and his radio show. So tune in! I guarantee you’ll hear the same passion from Joe, as the music he presents to listeners each week. “I love what all of the creative artists do out there. I may not always connect or relate to everyone of them, but I admire what they do. We’re all doing a grass roots effort in life today, we’re all seeking creative ways to live and it’s important to me to give back by giving my listeners great music.”
Click on the red link for more info about Radio Nowhere WMSC 90.3
Join Joe on FACEBOOK HERE
Learn more about Mad Science HERE
June 24th Rory Sullivan and then The Copper Ponies (Annie Donahue and Erik Balkey)
July 8th Arlon Bennett
July 16th (special one hour feature) Twangtown Paramours
Rebroadcast on my show 7/22
July 22nd Lon Milo DuQuette
August 5th Juke Joint Jonny
August 12th Hank Woji